God Can Work Through Anything… Even Cookies

When in a prison-like place, it can seem so dark and lonely. Living day by day, not knowing what the next day brings, can be difficult even for the strongest of Christians. When you see a light at the end of the tunnel, it can come from an unexpected source and begin to get brighter as time goes on. That’s how I felt when I was an inmate at Northeast Correctional Complex, a maximum security prison in nearby Mountain City.

In the year 2000, a group of people came to the prison to begin what came to be a soul-saving adventure called Kairos. I was skeptical at first, but those feelings soon faded away. These people were genuine in their belief and in their service to the kingdom of God.

One day there was someone at my cell door talking to me about the Lord and giving me something that would cause me to want to know more about the work of the kingdom of God.  They gave me not only the gift of words to uplift my spirit but they also handed me a dozen chocolate chip cookies that someone took the time to make in their home just for me.  This seemingly simple act was actually an uplifting experience that caused me to seek more about what Jesus did for me. Because of their love expressed for me and for all of the men in that prison, lives were changed that day.

When a team came back for Kairos #2, I was chosen to be one of the participants of the weekend. What an experience it was – an experience that I cannot put into words because it is something one has to experience for himself. We heard the gospel, worshiped together, and ate meals provided by a wonderful community of volunteers. Things we often take for granted when we’re free. Suffice it to say that I was transformed into a much stronger Christian.

I was paroled on a beautiful sunny day in July of 2007 after 21 years of incarceration.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the view was breathtaking. My soon-to-be wife, Karen, was there waiting for me. Since then, Karen and I have enjoyed being involved and serving in our church, the United Emmaus Community, and the Northeast Tennessee Kairos organization.

It’s amazing to see the difference one dozen cookies can make in the lives of so many people who thought no one cared about them. Kairos has caused me to know and love more about the Lord, as well as the prison ministry that has blessed so many men, women, and youth that are or were incarcerated.

It’s not just the cookies, it’s the spiritual food they offer as well.

John Villanueva

To learn more about Kairos Prison Ministry and GFC’s upcoming Cookies for Kairos collection, click here.